At a meeting of sports marketing academics in May, there was uniform agreement that many marketers continue to deny the relevance of sports marketing and maintain that although this might be an interesting area in which to work, it is economically insignificant and insufficiently different to other forms of marketing; it certainly does not justify the existence of specialist journals. Here is my response.
First, let us be clear about the contribution that sport makes to industrial output and economic activity. In the UK alone, sport currently accounts for 2% of gross domestic product and 2.5% of total consumer spend, with the latter forecast to increase 15% of current spend by 2007 (SIRC, 2003). Then let us consider some examples: in Scotland, the Celtic and Rangers football teams are estimated to add £120 million to the Glasgow economy each year (BBC, 2005); in France, up to 1.5 million people each day will stand at the roadside watching the Tour de France cyclists go past, each spectator buying food, drinks, accommodation, merchandising and so on (Gallagher, 2003). Second, sports marketing is distinctive. Its origins and relevance can be traced back to work undertaken by 20th century economists such as Neale (1964); sport and the activities surrounding it are based upon uncertainty of outcome. In my view, sports marketing should be defined in the following way:
It is an ongoing process through which a contest with an uncertain outcome is staged, creating opportunities for the simultaneous fulfilment of objectives among sport customers, sport businesses, participants and other related individuals, groups and organisations.
This definition differentiates sports marketing from other forms of marketing because no other product can consistently replicate sport, even in the cultural (what some marketers call ‘the unconventional’) industries. For example, when we first watch a film, there is no indication of what is going to happen, but for any subsequent viewing of that film, we will know the outcome. You can go to watch your favourite sport twice, five or ten times and never know who will win. The definition is also important because it indicates the boundaries of sports marketing. For instance, running a marathon falls within the domain of sports marketing but attending an aerobics class does not – the latter is a leisure pursuit. In sport, the appeal generated by uncertainty also means, for example, that sponsors, merchandisers, broadcasters and the media can pursue their objectives, so these also fall within the domain of sports marketing.
The academics assembled in Milan not only debated the nature and scope of sports marketing but also provided the basis for this edition of the Journal. The meeting was the European Academy of Marketing (EMAC) annual conference and it heralded both the growing interest in sport among mainstream marketers and the developing rigour of sports marketing research in academia. The papers here demonstrate this progression and create benchmarks that will help to establish sports marketing for its intellectual credibility, its practical relevance and its place in the mainstream.
Special thanks are reserved for Gabriele Troilo of Bocconi University, chairman of the organising committee at EMAC 2005, for giving permission for us to approach the authors of papers delivered at the conference. Thanks also to friends and colleagues for their good wishes following my appointment as editor. If you have any questions or comments on the Journal or its development, please feel free to contact me.